Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August Wrap-up

August is a fairly quiet month around the farm. Most of the pruning has been done and the winter spraying of weeds and pests, mainly vine scale, completed in the vineyards. Repairs to netting have been made, trellis wires tightened and stays reset if necessary. All is about ready for budburst in spring .
This winter has been particularly cold (for us) and windy with a couple of frosts already. We have also had plenty of rain.
The wind brought down a few trees over the boundary fences so this was a good opportunity to not only repair this damage but upgrade much of the fencing in general.
Working with four strands of high tensile barbed wire is always fun. It gets you when you least expect it. After a week you look like you have been in a war zone.
Winter frosts kill of most of the native pasture and the cows tend to put pressure on the fencing looking for "greener grass" next door. The improved fences plus back up electric fences in critical areas will hopefully keep them home.
Our Semillon is still in the tank. We had hoped to bottle by now but professional tests showed that while the free SO2 is on the mark, pH is a little low and TA high. This is a result of our early picking. Nothing much we can do about that with the limited technical facilities at this "Vin de Garage" establishment. Deacidification would be a bit of a nightmare to control well so we just have to hope that more tartrate will "fall out" of solution during the few more colder months we have left.
The Cabernet Sauvignon is still maturing in the tank with the oak staves still in place. I will give that a few more weeks. Free SO2, TA and pH are fine with this wine. The Pinot Noir is in the bottle. Unfortunately the rose' seems to have "gone to God". Am endeavoring to save it but such small batches are always in danger of being the victim of oxidation.

Plans for our trip to the USA are almost complete.
Flying from Sydney to Sioux Falls, SD via LAX and Denver with no stopovers will be a bit tiring (23 hours all up) but we have done it a few times before and in my opinion it is better to get it over and done with.
So hopefully the next post will come from the American mid west.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pruning Tools

Pruning is the biggest job in a vineyard in winter.
It is long monotonous process that does require skill, attention to detail and strong hands.
While many large vineyards today are mechanically pruned, many are still done by hand.
The main prerequisite is a good set of pruning shears.
I have used the Swiss Felco brand for many years.
Considered to be among the best pruning shears in the world, the Felco company began in 1945 when FĂ©lix Flisch designed his first forged aluminium pruning shear and manufactured a high-quality and exceptionally durable tool.
Today this business employs 150 people in its modern factory in Swizerland, has four subsidiaries in France, Belgium, Australia and Germany and exports over 90% of its products to over 100 countries.
Their shears are strong, cut well and are easy to maintain.
My original Felco pruner was the F2. They are the most recommended bypass pruners in the world with solid-forged metal alloy handles, Swiss precision-made hardened, replaceable cutting blade, replaceable anvil blade with a sap groove.
A hardened steel center bolt and nut ensure exact adjustment of both the cutting and anvil blades. A rubber cushion and shock absorber provide smooth working and soft closing.
But I found that on larger cuts ie. thicker canes, especially when cane pruning, my hands soon became sore after a few weeks.
The answer was the Felco F7 which is an ergonomic bypass Felco professional pruner.
It has a rotating handle that revolves on its axis, allowing the fingers to move naturally, reducing hand fatigue and the inevitable blisters that so often accompany prolonged pruning work.
The unique swivel action requires up to thirty percent less effort than conventional models and offers maximum comfort on continuous pruning. The swiveling handle feels a little strange at first, but I quickly wondered how I ever lived without it.
Both cutting and anvil blades are not riveted, so they are easy to replace. The narrow, pointed blade design allows for close pruning.
These tools are available in both left and right handed versions.

The next step up is of course the battery operated pruner.
Nice to think about but at around $3000, not something for a really small vineyard like ours.
Pneumatic pruners similar to the these are also available.